Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Boston Marathon and the Healing Power of Sports

I'm still reeling over the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Tragedy comes in many forms, but it's rare that it strikes such a peaceful and unsuspecting scene as it did Monday. Most of you know the facts by now: an eight year old boy was brutally killed watching the race with his family, along with two others. Some 180 others lie injured in the area Boston hospitals, a number that could easily be over 200 when all is said and done. Many have had their limbs amputated, their lives forever changed. It's hard to fathom such a horrible thing happening in our proud country. My heart goes out to all those affected, and I know that I speak for all of us in wishing the best for those poor victims in their recovery.

Life goes on; that's a part of the healing process. Everyone finds a different way to cope with their pain, takes a different path on the road to recovery. And time and again, sports have been an outlet for the grief of a community. I'm not the first to write about the healing power of sports, nor will I be the last. But I wanted to share some of the more inspiring moments that sports have offered us after a tragedy, as a way of lifting everyone's spirits just a little bit after what happened on Monday.

Marshall Plane Crash, 1970

This is one of the only cases where sports was an outlet for a sports tragedy. In summary: flying back from an away game at ECU, a plane carrying the Marshall football team crashed into a hill, killing all 75 people on board, including 37 players and 8 coaches. The football program was almost disbanded, but at the urging of interim head coach Jack Lengyal, was kept together.

He built a new team basically from the scraps of the JV team for the 1971 season, and just about everyone expected them to not win a game. I don't have video for obvious reasons, but in true David vs Goliath fashion, they beat heavily favored Xavier in their home opener. After such a heartbreaking loss just a season ago, this win was cathartic: fans "stayed on the field after dark. People were crying in the stands. I can't even explain how emotional it was," says Dave Wellman, a Marshall employee at the time.

We are Marshall, indeed.

9/11: Yankees Stadium, October 30, 2001

This one needs no introduction, and I won't even begin to go into the scale and magnitude of the 9/11 tragedy. Thousands of Americans killed, thousands more grieving the loss of family and friends. All baseball games in the immediate aftermath were cancelled, but returned just 6 days later, on September 17.

No one needed the healing more than New Yorkers in the aftermath of 9/11, so I'll just share two of my favorite NY-related moments. The first is Mike Piazza blasting a go-ahead home run in the first game back at Shea Stadium after 9/11:

And maybe my favorite video of all time, George Bush throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium in game 3 of the ALCS in 2001. Wearing so much body armor he could barely move his torso. Zips a strike down the middle followed by the loudest USA chant I've ever heard.

New York went on to win that series 4-1. Those chills will go away in about 30 minutes, in case you were wondering.

Hurricane Katrina: New Orleans Superdome, September 25, 2006

Another that needs no introduction. The damage from Hurricane Katrina totaled in the billions of dollars and cost thousands of lives, displaced thousands of people and kept the city practically underwater for months. The Saints were forced to play their entire 2005 season away from New Orleans, with "home" games in Baton Rouge, Dallas, and New York. This is a town that LOVES their football team, and rumors that the Superdome would have to be demolished from hurricane damage only further dampened the spirits of the New Orleans' community.

But in early 2006 it was announced that the Superdome would be renovated and ready in time for the NFL season. All the emotions from the past year came to a fever pitch when the Falcons came to town on September 25, 2006. Skip to 1:00 to avoid the MNF intro:

Now that's a moment. The Saints went on to win that game 23-3.

Boston Marathon: April 15, 2013

I've already gone into detail of what happened, so I'll spare you a repeat. Obviously there hasn't been enough time for Boston sports to provide much of a respite from the pain, but I sincerely hope they have a few moments like the ones above in the coming weeks. Instead I'll show a few pics and videos that might just restore your faith in humanity:

Former Patriots lineman Joe Andruzzi carrying a victim to safety

Boston's finest on the scene immediately

And again, playing the hero

And a fitting way to conclude - the New York Yankees playing "Sweet Caroline" after the 3rd inning to honor their "rival" city of Boston.

Just remember: there is a lot of good out there, and sometimes it isn't that hard to find. Pray for Boston, everyone.

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